Monday, February 28, 2011

Feeling Fabulous: An Interview with Jessica Burks

It's not often that you meet a young woman under the age of 25 that is the CEO her own company. It's also uncommon for a young African-American woman to found a company based on improving the self-esteem of other young women. Jessica Burks is no ordinary woman and she founded Feeling Fabulous, an organization that concentrates on women and their self-esteem. Feeling Fabulous' mission is to encourage women around the world to "unleash and enhance their inner diva." We were eager to find out more about this organization and this extraordinary woman so the Brownstone Blog got the chance to chat with Jessica and this is what we found out:

When and why did you decide to create this unique organization?

Feeling Fabulous entered my heart in November of 2009 and the organization launched on January 1, 2010! I was inspired to start Feeling Fabulous after completing a workbook entitled " 30 days at 100%" by Crystal Wright (who is now my personal mentor). At the time my self confidence was so low and that book helped me ssooo much I wanted to reach out to women all over the world and inspire them in my own way! For my 30 days I looked in the mirror every morning and said out LOUD..."I feel FABULOUS!"

What are your plans for Feeling Fab in 2011?

For 2011 I plan on having our first Feeling Fabulous convention, and work with more of the local Jr. High Schools.

Brownstone strives to honor women of color. Are there any women that you consider an inspiration? If so, why?

I would honor my mother ( Sherri Burks Terrell). She's my number one cheerleader/fan, and stands by my side to make sure that I fulfill my hopes and dreams with Feeling Fabulous.

What are three words that you would use to describe yourself?

Blessed, Fabulous, Bashful :)

What kind of legacy would you like to create?

I would like for all my Feeling Fab members to remember me as a positive, risk taker who truly believes that with God your destination is endless.

Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

I just want everyone to know that you all have an inner diva. Sometimes we just need to unleash & enhance her! We are all beautiful and made just how God wants us to be! Keep you head up and know that the rainbow only follows the storm. Whatever situation you might be going through, know that God will always takes your bad and makes it work for your good!

-- Alexandria Bland
Brownstone Intern

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Trail Blazing Women in my Life

This month is all about trail blazing women. The women who have made an impact in Black history. I took this opportunity to write about everyday women that are in my life, that aren’t necessarily acknowledged for the work they do but have impacted me in a tremendous way. These women have helped me work through problems and make solutions out of predicaments I was in. The trail blazing women in my life are my grandma Gloria Williams and my godmother Gwen Fortier.

My grandma was always my shelter to go to when I was sad, mad, depressed or getting in trouble. She would always console me as well as discipline me in a way that I understood. My grandma is the most genuine person I have ever met. If you looked in the dictionary under philandtrophy you would see a picture of my grandma. She just gives and gives no matter if she doesn’t have. I remember when I was younger she had about one hundred pairs of nice, expensive shoes and gave more than half of them away to anyone who wanted or needed them at the time. She would always provide a home for those in the family who needed. She even started a day care, where she watched our family as well as friend's kids and took them under her wing. My grandma was always lending an open hand to family and close friends, but she even took it further and always gave to homeless. If she had even a little to give to them such as food, even if it was down to our last bit my grandma was there to give it. This was just astonishing to me how someone would just give and give but never ask for anything in return. This act of giving and just caring for others became the foundation of my life. Because my grandma lended a hand in raising me, I always knew to take others into consideration before myself. She taught me to think of yourself last and you will benefit from it later. Those who don’t need to be recognized for lending a hand are those that truly care. My grandma on top of giving and lending a hand always loved no matter what. Despite the fact of what you have done to her, she always forgave you and prayed for for you in the process. You feel the love around her and she truly shines form the inside out which is why she is a trail blazing women in my life. And I acknowledge her for it everyday.

I also admire my godmother Gwen Fortier. Gwen is my formal music director’s wife. She is the epitome of what I want to be like when I grow up. Her determination and drive in life just shows through her work. She is just an amazing singer and devotes her life to music. On top of being the leader of our sopranos section she always has a very busy job and has a growing family. On top of that she is a lead vocalist, who has such a beautiful and anointing voice that you get chills when she sings. She always consoles me on my life as well as keep me in check. This act of maternalship is something any young women needs in growing up in life. The fact that she is so open about her life teaches me to not make the same mistakes she did. Her act of independence as well as her soulful and beautiful spirit makes her a trailblazing women in my life.

Trailblazing women don’t necessarily have to be someone who have won a noble peace prize or is well known within your community. Everyday we are surronded by strong women who nmake huge impacts in your life. My godmother and my grandmother are trailblazing women because they helped shape me and mold me to become a woman. And maybe one day through the knowledge they have taught me and the wisdom as well as the guidance they have given me; I will become a trail blazing woman also.

-- Jamiah King
Jr Correspondent

Monday, February 21, 2011

Desiree Rogers: Executive Chic

Desiree Rogers is one of those women that you look at and think “I want to be her!” She’s the CEO of Johnson Publications, the company that owns Ebony and Jet Magazines and Fashion Fair Cosmetics, and she most notably served as Social Secretary for the Obama Administration. (who knew such a job even existed?!) She has a Master’s degree from Harvard, yet she is still fly beyond belief and the life of the party. She’s achieved that mix of brainiac and sophisticated cool that so many of us strive for. Vogue Magazine even used Rogers as an example that “executive and chic can co-exist.” I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Ms. Rogers before I began researching for this article, but I can now say that she is someone that us Brownstone girls can look up to!

Desiree Rogers was born and raised in New Orleans Louisiana, the daughter of a city council man father and a mother who ran day centers. Her house was always full of people from blue collar workers to local business leaders, and one can only speculate that her evolved social skills are a result of t his childhood. Ms. Rogers received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Wellesley College in 1981 and went on to receive her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1985.

Rogers is no stranger to powerful positions, she’s served as the Illinois State Lottery Director, President of People’s Energy Corp, and President of Social Networking for All State Insurance, but she is most known for her role as the Social Secretary of the White House under the Obama Administration. Desiree has been friends with the Obamas for over two decades, introduced by Desiree’s ex husband and Michelle Obama’s brother (the two played basketball together at Princeton). Ms. Rogers and the Obamas ran in the same social circle of successful upper middle class Black families in Chicago, and Rogers reportedly used her connects to pool together $200,000 for Obama’s Presidential campaign!

The Obama Administration has brought about a new era of politics for the obvious reason that Barack Obama is the first African American President, but also because there is a new perceived accessibility to the White House that didn’t exist before. This change can partially be credited to Desiree Rogers as she worked tirelessly to make the White House “the people’s house.” Ms. Roger’s main goal was to create a White House that reflected who the Obama’s truly are. She did this by planning events such as inviting a group of culinary students to the White House kitchen to review menus with Mrs. Obama, organizing the planting of the White House Vegetable Garden with local elementary school students, and dying the White House fountain green for St. Patrick’s Day.

Like most prominent women, Desiree Rogers did face some controversy. Rogers has a keen eye for fashion and a closet worthy of coveting, but some people thought that her clothes were inappropriate for someone in her position, especially during a recession. When she sat next to Anna Wintour, Editor of Vogue, at a New York Fashion Week show, critics claimed that this choice was too showy and flamboyant for a White House figure. However, none of this criticism compared to what Rogers was faced with in November of 2009 when two socialites from Virginia allegedly crashed a White House State Dinner. The actual details of the event are unclear as the couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, claim that they were invited to the dinner and did nothing wrong (despite not having a physical invitation in their possession). Still, a lot of negative press was directed toward Ms. Rogers because as Social Secretary it was her role to maintain the guest list. A few months after this incident Ms. Rogers resigned from her position as Social Secretary.

Desiree Rogers is now the CEO of Johnson Publications, the world’s largest African American owned and operated publishing company. The firm is owned by Linda Johnson Rice who happens to be a good friend of Ms. Rogers. In her new position, Rogers’ goal is to reinvent Ebony and Jet Magazines and Fashion Fair Cosmetics into brands that are prominent and profitable. These brands have had a significant impact on the Black Community over the years and some might venture to say that her role as CEO may have an even greater impact on the Black Community than her position as Social Secretary.

What stands out most to me about Desiree Rogers is not that she was criticized for being too flashy or that she resigned from her White House position after a year, but that she stayed true to herself despite it all. She didn’t let criticism change how she dressed or how she carried herself, and she didn’t tolerate people who blamed the White House crasher scandal on her negligence. The Wall Street Journal quoted Desiree as saying “ All these rules we’ve put in place for ourselves . . . . ‘Ladies, smash them. Be who you want to be.’” And that’s my hope for you Brownstone girls, that just like Ms. Rogers, you will always have the courage to be exactly who you want to be.

--Karissa Allen
Brownstone Team

Friday, February 18, 2011

Assata Shakur: The Woman Who Inspires My Natural Hair

One African American woman in history that has been a great influence to me is political activist Assata Shakur. In the 12th grade, I enrolled myself in a “Women in Literature” class at my high school. Our main reading was “Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur which fellow Brownstone writer, Chevonne Collins wrote about Wednesday.

What I liked about the autobiography was that the issues discussed weren’t trivial or stereotypical: they were real issues on race and politics. Finally, I thought, Black literature with substance. She touched upon the racial discrimination she experienced in the education system growing up as JoAnne Byron and the justice system when she became an adult after she joined the Black Panther Party and later changed her name to Assata Shakur.

However, Assata’s view on hair had the biggest impact on me. She expressed how stress-free and low maintenance it was to wear an afro. When I read that something struck a nerve in me . I realized how self-conscious I was about my hair. I was a “shampoo, press and curl” girl back in my high school days. Many girls at my school would get either presses or weaves. I would get a little afraid when my hair would “go back to Africa” at some places. When people told me that my hair was “trained,” I considered it a compliment until I read this book. An afro was more than just a hairstyle to me, but a symbol of my love for my Black heritage. This was definitely something the “man” wanted to suppress during the days of the days of the Black Power Movement. No longer was I excited about getting my hair done every other week. I felt like I was assimilating to the conventional constructs of beauty; being a beautiful women meant you had long, straight hair. These very constructs were created to undermine the Black race, implying that our distinct features should be considered ugly and unacceptable. Sadly, my surroundings would not approve; Los Angeles didn’t seem politically inclined to me and my beautician (older sister) would not allow me to.

I wore an afro for the first time in public during my freshmen year in college. I figured the Bay Area would embrace this style more than Los Angeles. I felt a little insecure at first, I didn’t know how people would react. I got many compliments from older people. One person called it “psychedelic,” others were amazed with how much hair I had. People of different races even complimented me. I felt liberated in a way. I was able to express myself in terms of my culture. Wearing an afro was a lot less worrisome as a press. Neither rain nor sweat scared me. What made me sad were people that couldn’t understand why I would wear my hair like that, all people who disliked my hair was black. However, I didn’t let stop me from wearing my afro; I honestly like showing off how thick my hair is.

This book showed me a side of Black history I never learned about before. I feel incredibly empowered as a Black person every time I read the book. The Afro has become a signature of mine. I wear it a lot more at home now than at school. It is my favorite hair style, mainly because of the remarks I get. I figure that people from other races wear their hair natural, why can’t I?

-- Amanda Scurlock
Brownstone Intern

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Assata: The Unheard Voice of the Black Panther Movement

I didn’t learn about Assata Shakur in school. In fact, the extent of my Black History education in school consisted of learning about slavery, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King. Of course, these are all HUGE people and events in the story of African Americans… but there is also so much more to Black history. And SOOOOO many more people, like artists and inventors, politicians and revolutionaries.

My senior year in high school, I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X and it changed my life. It’s one of those books that I couldn’t put down! (If you’re not big on reading, then check out the movie version.)

Recently, I finished reading Assata, which became another book high on my list of favorites. In honor of Black History Month at Brownstone, I would like to pay homage to this legendary woman.

Who is Assata Shakur? I’m glad you asked.

Well, to be brief, Assata (who changed her name from JoAnne Chesimard) was an activist and a revolutionary. She was a member of the Black Panther Party in the 70’s and was incarcerated and wrongly convicted for a crime she did not commit. The book actually starts with Assata being almost fatally wounded after being shot (multiple times) & dragged across the pavement by a New Jersey State Trooper.

Leading up to that, she had been regularly criminalized by the police as well as the media.
As you all probably know, racism was a lot more explosive and hostile in those days. Organizations like the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the NAACP worked hard to fight for the fair treatment and opportunities of African Americans, who were OFTEN treated unfairly. Some of these groups were infiltrated by the Police, the FBI, and/or the CIA in order to destroy them through the Counter Intelligence Program, or, as it’s more commonly known, “COINTELPRO.”

Unfortunately, for some of these groups, their mission worked. Assata, and other members of the Black Panther Party, were manipulated, blackmailed, and some were even killed as a result of this program. Mostly because they fought to defend equal rights and take a stand against oppression.
Can you imagine that happening today?

If you saw something happening around you that you felt was totally unfair, and you spoke up about it, can you imagine going to jail for it?

While in prison, Assata was regularly treated poorly by guards (sometimes was beat by them), judges (who tried to use the legal system against her), doctors (who wouldn’t give her adequate treatment during her recovery from being shot or while she was pregnant), and even members of the jury (who were all ready to vote that she was guilty before even listening to the trial.)
All this because she didn’t sit down and just accept racism. She, and the rest of the Black Panther Party, promoted Black pride. They had breakfast and recreational programs for the Black youth in their community, and protected members of their community from police brutality, that was prevalent in poor Black areas.

She endured a whole lot and lived to tell the story. After she was wrongly convicted, she escaped from prison and was given political asylum by Cuba, which means she can live freely there. She now resides in Havana, Cuba.

If there’s one thing to take away from Assata’s story is perseverance. This woman fought injustice in a time where the odds were stacked against her, and continued to fight for freedom when everything else around her seemed hopeless. Many of us haven’t had to face circumstances as tough as hers, but if she dealt with all that adversity and kept going, we should look to that as an example when we find it hard to keep going. Sometimes you have to really dig deep, find your inner strength, and keep fighting for whatever you’re fighting for. Keep going!
And check out the book when you get a chance.

I wasn't just a Colored girl. I was part of a whole world that wanted a better life. I'm part of a majority and not a minority. My life has been a life of growth. If you're not growing, you're not going to understand real love. If you're not reaching out to help others then you're shrinking. My life has been active. I'm not a spectator" - Assata

-- Chevonne Collins
Brownstone Team

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Introducing Our New Partner: The Black Girl Project

Brownstone is proud to announce our first partnership with The Black Girl Project. The Black Girl Project is a nonprofit organization founded by Aiesha Turner that confronts the issues that most-impact girls head-on all within the context of being a Black female in an ever-changing world. BGP originally began as documentary film about Black girls and the diverse lives they lead (the good, the bad, and the in-between)and has grown into a movement to uplift, support and nurture Black girls everywhere. BGP provides tools, guidance and support for girls to prepare themselves physically, socially, emotionally and culturally for the responsibilities of young adulthood. Through literature, the arts, individual and group work, along with a host of interdisciplinary modes BGP helps bolster self-esteem, critical thinking and leadership skills. We feel that The Black Girl Project is the perfect partner to help give a voice to the stories we tell here at Brownstone. Stay tuned as we feature more work from BGP in the upcoming months.

Check out some snippets from BGP's film here. Also, help support them as they raise funds to expand the BGP film and create materials for educational outreach. You can help donate on their Kickstart page.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What Does Your Hair Say About You?

If I used the image above to define myself I'd definitely be "ghetto fab" because I love how that particular hairstyle looks. Even though I love that hairstyle, my current look is similar to the intellectual style shown. I'm almost positive that the person who took the time to create this cartoon photo is either joking or crazy. There's no way that someone's hairstyle can dictate what type of person they are. I know plenty of cultured women that don't have dreadlocks and the fashionistas I know would never have that blonde haircut. Despite the fact that I disagree with some of the labeling shown in the picture, I can't help but take notice to the truths shown. People do judge others based off of their hairstyles.

Lately I've been wearing my hair in a straight bob style in order to look "professional" when on job interviews or at my internship. I personally dislike getting my hair pressed on a regular basis, but I've been doing it because I feel like it's the right thing to do. Do I subconsciously think that my hair in its natural state in unprofessional? I wish I knew the answer to that question, but I don't. What I do know is that people perceive me differently when my hair is straight.

As a person, I'm no more or less professional with my hair straight than I am with it puffy so it should not make a difference, right? I've honestly had guys tell me that they prefer when girls go get their hair done (meaning relaxed, pressed and/or flat ironed). I've heard numerous women, on television and elsewhere, claim that getting their hair done helps them keep a man. On the other hand, I've recently come in contact with many young women that are embracing their natural hair textures. I am glad that I've been able to see both sides of the spectrum.

Unfortunately, some natural hair textures are more easily accepted by others. Those of us with kinky (or nappy) hair are often seen as the types that need their hair done the most. Those with natural wavy hair or loose curls can easily get away with not straightening their hair without worrying about the opinions of others. Hair length is also an issue for some of us. We want longer hair for whatever reason so we'll get extensions that can possibly damage our natural hair. Maintaining healthy hair is what should be our priority.

The truth is, it should not matter how you wear your hair nor should it matter what texture your hair is. What other people think about your hair shouldn't matter either. What should matter is the person you are and the person you are becoming. If you choose to wear your hair straight, do it. If you prefer your natural kinks or curls, wear them with pride. As young women, we are far too concerned with what other people might think. We base many of our personal decisions on what we think others will say. We should stop doing that.

So what does your hair say about you? It shouldn't say anything and what others say about your hair shouldn't matter. I welcome your feedback and would love to read your opinion on the topic. How do you currently wear your hair and why is that your preference? Do you have any interesting hair-related experiences to share?If so, feel free to post them below.

Thanks for reading,
Alexandria B.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Brownstone's Valentine's Day Playlist

Everyone enjoys a good love song! Certain songs remind us of a special moment like a first kiss or maybe the one we've been dreaming of. On the other hand, love songs can remind us of a painful heart break. There are plenty of good and bad emotions that are evoked from love songs, but today we're focusing on the positive:) With Valentine's Day just a couple of days away, it's the perfect time to pop in your favorite slow jams and celebrate L-O-V-E.

I like love songs that get me singing. It doesn’t really matter if they’re old school jams or the “nu-nu” know songs you never quite learn the lyrics to. I just like singing and expressing myself through music. This year, why not make a special playlist for your boyfriend? Or if you're single play songs that celebrate your love for yourself. Brownstone created a list of songs to help get you started. Check out our Valentine's Day playlist:

1. All I want is You - Miguel feat J Cole
2. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars
3. One in a Million – Neyo
4. There Goes My Baby – Usher
5. Baby - Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris
6. Everything to Me – Monica
7. Promise Ring -Tiffany Evans featuring Ciara
8. Just A Kiss-Mishon
9. First Crush- Keke Palmer
10. Pure Love - Raven Symone

What are your favorite love songs? We'd love to add them to our playlist.

-- Kyle Holland
Brownstone Team


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Take Time to Plan

Now that school has started back, it’s exciting to be in a learning environment with your friends. As a student, school comes with various assignments, extracurricular events and your regular day-to-day activities. If you’re involved in a lot of activities then you know firsthand how difficult it can be to keep up. One skill that is great to have and master is time management. Time management is an important skill to learn so that you are able to accomplish the tasks that you are given in an efficient manner. When you’ve completed the task you’re able to move on to the next without getting backed up.

It took me a couple of months to realize that I was wasting countless hours throughout my day on the internet. I went through this phase were I would go on YouTube to get fashion and makeup ideas and watch video after video. I think a lot of it started because I was so happy to finally have my own laptop. Throughout high school, I didn’t own one. I used the computers at my school. So when I got my computer I went overboard. Now that I look back on those days I know I could have spent those hours doing other things.

The way I began to take control of my time was by writing in my planner and completing the assignments one step at a time. I would ask myself, “What small step can I take to get closer to completing an assignment?” One of my favorite options would be to stay on my computer but instead of watching videos I would record videos of myself talking about what I plan to write in my paper. My video recording would act as my brainstorming process to get my thoughts flowing. Then when I was ready to write, I had it under control. Other useful options are using an oversized calendar or dry erase board. If these options do not work for you, your phone is also a great choice. Once you’ve found out what works for you. Your life will be that much easier. You will complete those big assignments and be happy to check them off your list. You will become more reliable and the problem of forgetting things won’t sneak up on you as often. You know what works for me; now tell me what works for you. What has helped you stay on task? Please share your tips suggestions and comments.

-- Carla Banks
Brownstone Intern

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blazing a Trail, Leaving a Legacy

According to, the term “trailblazer” literally means “a person who blazes a trail for others to follow through unsettled country or wilderness; pathfinder.” Can you think of anyone who has made it easier for you to live your dream? Anyone who faced haters and nonbelievers, knowing that they had what it took to succeed? Let me share with you an example of three African American women who did just that.

Althea Gibson: The first African American to play tennis at Wimbledon.

“I knew that I was an unusual, talented girl through the grace of God. I didn't need to prove that to myself. I only wanted to prove it to my opponents.”

Raised in Harlem, New York in the 1930’s and 40’s, Althea Gibson knew all about hardship and overcoming obstacles. Growing up on welfare from time to time, and not having a real interest in school, Althea struggled to find something she excelled at. Once someone put a tennis racket in her hand however, the rest as they say, “is history.” The combination of her talent and love of the game did not go unnoticed. She went on to not only compete in, but win several tournaments that were previously closed to African Americans, including the French Open in 1956 and Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958. Althea was not only the first African American woman to play in these tournaments; she was the first African American person period given the opportunity to play in them. She faced her haters head on and let her racket do the talking.

Mae Jemison: The first African American female astronaut.

"Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live."

Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Mae Jemison graduated from Stanford University in 1977 where she completed dual degrees in Chemical Engineering and Afro American Studies. Dr. Jemison went on to attend medical school at Cornell University and served with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia before applying to NASA’s astronaut training program in 1986. Dr. Jemison was 1 of 15 people selected for the program out of nearly 2,000 applicants and on September 12, 1992, she became the first African American woman to enter outer space when she took part in an 8-day mission aboard the space shuttle Endeavor. Dr. Jemison once said, “One of the things that I'm very concerned about is that as African-Americans, as women, many times we do not feel that we have the power to change the world and society as a whole." Dr. Jemison is proof of course, that we can accomplish both.

Toni Morrison: The first African American author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

"If there is a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it."

For some people, it is easier to critique than it is to create. There is less to lose when you borrow from the thoughts and words of others. It takes an almost fearless individual to stand up and be heard. For author Toni Morrison, she believed she had stories worth telling and tell them, she did. Many of you may be familiar with her work, ranging from her first novel, The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, where the main character believes life would be easier if only she had blue eyes, to more haunting works like Beloved, later made into a movie starring Oprah. It was her desire to tell varied stories on topics both taboo (race, gender) and troubling (slavery, murder) that brought Toni Morrison recognition and eventually critical acclaim in the form of both a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, making her the first African American to do so. A graduate of Howard University and later Cornell, Morrison always loved English. It would be her way to touch the world.

So Now What?
Perhaps tennis great Althea Gibson said it best. When asked about her accomplishments later in life, Althea said, "I always wanted to be somebody. If I made it, it's half because I was game enough to take a lot of punishment along the way and half because there were a lot of people who cared enough to help me." These women were successful because they believed in themselves, and someone else did too. They not only had the talent, they had the dedication it took to reach their goals and the courage to deal with anyone or anything that got in their way. They had to deal with racism and sexism, but they kept pushing. They may have had some days where they felt like giving up, but they kept trying.

Have you ever wanted to give up? Have you ever thought that what you were doing wasn’t worthwhile? What if these women had stopped believing in themselves? Who would Venus and Serena Williams have to look up to if Althea Gibson had let racism stand between her and the tennis court? How many more years would we have had to wait to see an African American woman in space if Mae Jemison had not literally decided to go where no black woman had gone before? What if Toni Morrison had been happy simply being an editor of other people’s books? The world would have missed out on one of its greatest writers. These women took a chance and in doing so provided not only the world, but young African American women like you with real life role models. Dr. Jemison is still doing her thing, and Toni Morrison will most likely write until the day she dies. Whatever they decide to do now, they have already influenced so many, and contributed so much to the world. They blazed new trails and never looked back. Their legacy will live on long after they have left this world.

Do you have a goal you want to accomplish one day? Do you believe you have what it takes to get there? Are you surrounding yourself with people who support you and your dreams? If your answer is yes, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you answered no to even one of those questions, think about what you need to do differently to achieve your dreams. Trailblazers are not people who stand by waiting for an opportunity; they are people who go out and create one. Look at these three examples and be encouraged. Dr. Jemison once said, “The thing that I have done throughout my life is to do the best job that I can and to be me.” If you do that, the rest will come naturally. Create your own opportunities. Blaze your own trail. What will your legacy be?

-- Brandi Nichols
Brownstone Team

Meet our newest writer, Brandi Nichols! Brandi is a native of California who recently relocated to Texas. Brandi graduated from USC with a degree in Public Relations and went back later to receive her master’s degree in School Counseling. Brandi enjoys writing, reading and making people laugh. Her favorite book is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Who's That Girl? - A Profile of Jamiah King

You may have seen her around school or read some her fantastic blog posts here at Brownstone. But do you really know the young lady in this picture? In case your were wondering "Who's that Girl?" meet our fabulous, jr correspondent, Jamiah King.

Name: Jamiah King

Nickname: Miah

Age: 16

High School: Berkeley High School

Favorite after school activities: Dancing in dance production, reading Leaser novels, singing in my church's choir, taking pictures and journalism

Favorite color(s): Olive green, turquoise

Chocolate or Vanilla: Chocolate always, even though I am allergic

Bookworm or social butterfly: I stay in my books first because that's my main priority but I am a very social person who loves to be around others.

Clean freak or pack-rat? I have my moments. I think of myself as a clean freak outside of my home but at home I can be a pack rat but not for more than a month. My room has been clean for awhile. My room may be dirty but my closet stays clean always, it is color coordinated.

American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance: That's very hard to choose because both dancing and singing are my passions. And American Idol this year is blowing me away, but SYTYCD is such a beautiful show.

Twilight or Harry Potter: Neither, I'm not into the trend of science fiction or the whole Edward vs. Jacob.

If I could delete one subject from school it would be __chemistry__.

Biggest pet peeve: Cracking knuckles

If I could only eat one thing for a week it would be __biscuits__.

I would love to visit __Japan__.

Favorite singer(s): Maxwell, Musiq Soulchild, John Legend

Songs that annoy you on the radio: pointless club bangers or one hit wonders. Basically any song that says "swag" or "base God" or cusses too much.

Favorite place to shop: Ross, got to love a bargain.

Describe your sense of style: My style fluctuates. It depends on my mood for that day. Each day I have an outfit on, I have a theme to go along with it.

Favorite make-up item: Lip gloss (Victoria Secret slice of heaven or Bath and Body Works pink mint)

Guys: skinny jeans or baggy jeans? Hmmmm? Depends on how they where them.

What makes you unique? My spontaneous personality and drive in life.

What do you want to be when you get older? Happy

What are your plans after high school? College and lots of traveling. Hopefully study abroad, I definitely don't want to be in a cubicle.

If I were president, I would __try my best to include everyone's input and benefit the people and not myself and try not to be bias__.

Something new you would like to learn: Learn how to speak more than one language, besides English fluently.

If your life had a theme song, what would it be & why? Chasing Pavements by Adele or Fix You by Coldplay. They both are encouraging songs that deal with making mistakes and just not giving up, just try harder.

One goal I would like to achieve in 2011 is ___to find myself and be confident with oneself___.

What African American women inspire you? My grandmother.

I am proud to be a young black woman because I am not perfect but I aspire the best of myself and encourage others to do the same.

What does Brownstone mean to you? Brownstone means power and sisterhood.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Black Woman: A Rose by Any Other Name

Jezebel…Mulatto…Mammy…Single Mother…Welfare Queen

Throughout history, Black women have been called many names that were meant to define what others saw in us, but only limited our own self worth. As a teenager, I didn’t have positive female role models who looked like me outside of my family, except for my all time fav Maya Angelou. All the influential women I was used to seeing were on television or singing on the radio. Even today, the NeNes and Nicki Minajs seem to get more recognition than the women who slaved to fight for our rights.

In the classroom, we always skimmed over the Black heroines, focusing on the usual Black History superstars like Martin Luther King, Jr and Frederick Douglas. (No disrespect, but remember behind every man is a strong woman) I found it disappointing how I knew more about the infamous stereotypes of Black women such as mammy and the irresistible mulatto, but hardly about Black women leaders in history. Yes this is important to understand, but when you focus on the negative you often fail to see the positive.

Today, we know the legacy of our history greats such as Rosa Parks, Harriett Tubman, and Sojourner Truth, but not enough emphasis is placed on their individual journeys. At Brownstone, we believe that there is power in telling your story and sharing your journey. It’s hard to understand one’s legacy without acknowledging both. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that Black women have an amazing history of strength and determination, love and passion, resilience and faith. I am so proud to be a black woman.

In honor of Black History Month, Brownstone is highlighting the stories, journeys, and legacies of Black women of the past to the present. We want you to know that Black women are more than the roles we’re portrayed as on television. We are more than the over sexualized images seen in music videos. We are CEOs, first ladies, lawyers, doctors, etc. There are so many facets to who we are as women and it’s time for the world to know! This month, check out the women who are jumping over the barriers that have historically placed Black women in a box and are calling their own shots. We hope you’re inspired and learn something new :)

-- Tymika Morrison
Brownstone Team